These three little words have been part of my vocabulary since I started school when I was 5. Later I came to hate Latin lessons, but the lesson of ‘deeds not words’ has lasted a lifetime.
However, this is not about me but about a man instantly recognisable by three letters: SBY.
Or, to be loquacious, Gen. (ret) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (pronounced ‘ʂuʂiɭo b̥amb̥aŋ juɖ̥ɔjɔno‘), GCB, AC, Ph.D, MBA . He’s the current President of Indonesia and due to step down in October next year after serving two four-year terms.
As explained in Wikipedia, his name is Javanese, with Sanskrit roots. Susilo comes from the words su-, meaning ‘good’ and -sila, meaning ‘behaviour, conduct or moral’. Bambang is a traditional boy name in Javanese, meaning ‘knight’. Yudhoyono comes from the words yuddha. meaning ‘battle, fight’ and yana, meaning ‘journey’. Thus his name roughly translates to
well behaved knight.
He entered the army college in 1970, graduated as a second lieutenant in 1973 and thereafter rose through the ranks until, in 1997 he was appointed Chairman of the ABRI Faction in the People’s Consultative Assembly General Session, the token legislature dominated by loyal Suhartoists. SBY took part in pro-reform discussions, but no action, which eventually saw the abdication of Suharto in May 1998.
With reformasi, SBY offered ideas and concepts to reform the military and nation and thus became known in the media as “the thinking general”. To back this up, apart from his army studies, he also gained an MA degree in business management from Webster University in 1991, and was awarded a PhD in agricultural economics from the Bogor Agricultural University in 2004.
It is perhaps unfortunate that he has lived up, and many would say ‘down’, to his name.
In September this year he complained “[The sound of demos in front of the state palace] is extreme, isn’t it? Sometimes, when I receive state guests or have other important events, it disrupts our activities. In foreign countries, protests using megaphones are usually regulated.”
As are the over-amplified Muslim calls to prayer, yet he has done next to nothing except mouth platitudes about the rise in religious intolerance during his tenure in the Presidential Palace. Adding insult to injury was his acceptance of the 2013 World Statesman Award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation who number a number of other eminent figures of dubious credentials among the recipients and trustees.
But no matter. After next year’s presidential election, SBY will be free to do what he enjoys most, including penning and singing slushy songs.
He’ll be free to wow the world as an international “Eminent Person”. That is a title he’s already been awarded by no less than the United Nations with regard to yet another of the Talk-Fests held in Bali, the World Culture Forum. This is scheduled for four days starting next Sunday and SBY’s Welcome Address is already online.
“It gives me great pleasure to invite welcome Heads of State, Nobel Laureates, Ministers of Culture, top experts, senior policy-makers, NGOs, cultural practitioners and other stakeholders to this significant global gathering.”
What on earth are “cultural practitioners”? Could they be the Balinese dancers in the banner photos at the top of the page? And who does he have in mind when he speaks of “other stakeholders”? Surely that’s all of humanity and the species we’re busy discovering in order to wipe them out.
The ‘sub-title’ of the chinwag is ‘The Power of Culture in Sustainable Development’, a phrase which defies an acceptable definition.
More than one hundred definitions of sustainable development exist, but the most widely used one is from the World Commission on Environment and Development, presented in 1987. It states that sustainable development is “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable development promotes the idea that social, environmental, and economic progress are all attainable within the limits of our earth’s natural resources. Sustainable development approaches everything in the world as being connected through space, time and quality of life.
That sounds good to me, as does this the definition of ‘culture’: the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.
The “Welcome Address” continues thus: “Local cultural communities and civil society will have the opportunity through WCF-‘Bali Forum’ 2013 to display the rich diversity of Indonesian culture to a global audience.”
Why the hell should they?
“Hey, look at me! I’m a primitive, impoverished and disenfranchised native and you are rich, stupid and condescending tourist nobodies who are destroying the planet with your jet-setting over-consumption and you have absolutely nothing to teach us! Just leave us be!”
But “local cultural communities” won’t actually be there, no siree. The “Social Programme” features “the representatives of some famous worldwide carnival events” and “Indonesian ‘Best of the Best’ carnivals“. It’s worth wondering if the “representative” of the Asmat-Agats and Baliem Valley Festival will be a Papuan from the valley or a Javanese bureaucrat.
In a response to the United Nations Periodic Review, a four-year human rights check-up for all countries conducted in May/June last year, Indonesia said, “The Government of Indonesia supports the promotion and protection of indigenous people worldwide… Indonesia, however, does not recognize the application of the indigenous peoples concept in the country.”
But in May this year the Constitutional Court determined that a line in the country’s 1999 Forestry Law, which stated that customary forests are state forests, was not constitutional. So, a month later SBY made a commitment to recognise indigenous peoples’ collective rights to their territories .
The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), which represents 17 million people, is now mapping the country’s customary forests in order to save them from the encroachment of palm oil companies and other development projects.
One hopes that their efforts are not in vain or too late. After all, with their culture they have been the real stakeholders of Indonesia’s sustainable development since long before there were the “top experts” who have been invited to swan around at the conference of condescension next week.